Is Jakarta ready for the Asian Games?

Joko Widodo

Observing my adoptive city’s groundwork ahead of the 2018 Asian Games has been nothing short of amusing.

Living in Jakarta, Indonesia – one of the co-host cities – I cannot help but feel anxious for it hosting the biggest sporting event in Asia.

The renovated Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Stadium in Senayan is almost ready, reportedly with better facilities. The roads are newly paved and at the entrance, a shiny new statue of Sukarno stands tall. Pavements, something rare in Jakarta, encircle the stadium but that’s as far as it goes.

The rest of Jakarta is still in a construction mess. The mass rapid transit (MRT) projects were never aligned with the Asian Games and are only scheduled for completion in 2019.

Jalan Jendral Sudirman, one of Jakarta’s busiest main roads, is in traffic chaos from the construction with no signs of easing during the Games.

To reduce traffic congestion and to enable athletes to reach the venues on time – the governor of Jakarta has expanded the already cumbersome odd-even traffic system. This implementation is merely a temporary solution to the infamous Jakarta macet (congestion) and greatly distressing for the public.

Adding to the kerfuffle are these typos:

There are eight Games venues in Jakarta alone, compared to only one in Palembang. Getting to these venues is going to be a nailbiter for the athletes and delegates.

The governor has also commissioned a wider bus route with new bus stops around the city. He has come under fire recently for installing a 2.5-metre grass strip in front of the bus stop in Jalan Sudirman in South Jakarta, blocking access to the public transportation and causing traffic woes.

Commuters are forced to walk over the green patches to board the buses and destroying it as a result, though its very existence is still incomprehensible.

The green patches were installed as part of the effort to spruce up the appearance of the city ahead of the Games but shortlived after much criticism from the public.

The capital’s administration was also severely criticised for its ineffective solution to a heavily polluted Sentiong River or aptly nicknamed kali item (black river).

Kali item passes through the newly built athletes village in Kemayoran in Central Jakarta. Amid concerns of its poor aesthetics and odour, the government decided to cover the river with a black nylon net costing some US$40,000 instead of actually cleaning the river.

Barely two weeks to the Asian Games and parts of the netting are already torn from irresponsible littering that caused the problem in the first place, and it never solved the smelly problem.

The government has spent 45 trillion rupiah (US$3.2 billion) on infrastructure, logistics and advertising for the regional Games but the capital administration’s poor choice of temporary solutions is evident around Jakarta.

The Asian Games is the biggest sporting event in Asia and Indonesia should shine but at this rate, it is uncertain if this already brimming city of 10 million is ready for such excitement.

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